- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 10, 2021

Congressional Republicans’ top negotiator on changing policing in the U.S. said he and Democrats will not reach a deal before the Senate leaves Washington for its August recess.

Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina told reporters he wasn’t sure if there would be an agreement this year.

“I’ve given more deadlines on this bill, I’m not gonna give any more deadline,” said Mr. Scott, who had said he was hoping to reach a deal at various points this year.

With the Senate evenly split, Democrats and Republicans have been trying to find agreement on a bipartisan bill for months. The sides, however, have been divided over issues such as demands by civil rights groups to end “qualified immunity,” a legal standard that makes it more difficult to sue individual police officers.

Besides eliminating qualified immunity, the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, which passed the House in March, would create a national database of police misconduct, require federal law enforcement officials to use body and dashboard cameras, and ban federal officers from using chokeholds or no-knock warrants

Republicans, meanwhile, support other provisions in the bill, such as banning chokeholds, increasing the use of body cameras, and improving training in de-escalating volatile situations.

“I had hoped that we’d be done by now, but we are still trading paper and making incremental progress, literally,” Mr. Scott said.

“We have finally closed off a couple of parts of the bill, where we both have 100% agreement on it, and because we’re making that progress, we keep chugging along,” he said. “It’s a painfully slow process. Well, you know, I’ve given more deadlines on this bill.”

Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey, a top Democrat in the talks, said only that ”we’re still talking” when asked about the progress of the negotiations.

Civil rights groups pushing for changes, including the American Civil Liberties Union and the Leadership Council on Civil Rights, didn’t respond when asked about the lack of progress in the talks. 

Mr. Scott said the shooting in Chicago on Saturday of two police officers, one of whom was killed, underscored the importance of balancing demands to hold officers more accountable after last year’s killing of George Floyd with fears of destroying officers’ morale.

“It only highlights the importance of getting it right. And I don’t think that we’re going to see an end to the violence that we’re seeing around the country anytime soon,” he said. “So the way that we engage in police reform, bringing America together, has made this a more important process in my opinion. And a longer process.”

• Kery Murakami can be reached at kmurakami@washingtontimes.com.

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